Voters in doubt about how to vote on Proposition 121 should look to our neighbor to the west and decide if they want California-style primary elections in Arizona. The California top two primary system is similar to the one proposed in Proposition 121. All candidates and voters would participate in one primary; the top two finishers in the primary would face off in the general election.
Party primaries would be abolished. What is more, political parties would be prohibited from engaging in any candidate selection activity.
In June, California voters had their first test of top two primaries. The primaries promised increased competition among candidates, higher voter turnout, and the election of so-called moderate candidates free of partisan leanings. On all scores, the primaries failed to deliver.
The primaries left voters with fewer choices in the general election. Candidates from the same party will compete in 28 of the 153 state and federal seats on the ballot in November.
Voter turnout in June was less than 30 percent. This was the lowest turnout in California history for primaries in a presidential election year.
There was more erosion of voter choice. Third-party candidates were knocked out of the process, assuring that they would have no role in the November election.
In one district with a decided advantage in Democratic registration, too many Democrats ran and split the vote. This resulted in two Republicans finishing first and second in the primary with low vote percentages. The dominant party was shut out for November, an outcome that would never occur under a normal elections process.
This lopsided and exclusionary finish could happen to any party. Voters affiliated with the party eliminated in the primary would lose their choice in November, contributing to low voter turnout in the general election.
Arizona voters need to think twice about approving the top two primary system. The results in California are showing that it is a flawed idea. Proposition 121 will result in less competition among candidates and lower voter turnout. It should be defeated on November 6.